The Step-by-Step Guide to a Social Media Strategy that Works
To be successful on social media you need a strategy. Your social media strategy provides your entire team with directions on how to reach your marketing goals. It also makes it easy to retrace your steps when analyzing and auditing your marketing activities to figure out what worked and didn’t.
So, how do you create one?
At AppSumo, we run a robust social media strategy that stretches across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and various other networks.
To help you get the brand impressions, engagement, traffic, and sales you’ve always dreamed of, we put together this step-by-step guide on creating an impeccable social media strategy.
1. Research your target audience
Just like with creating any kind of strategy, start with thorough research.
There’s a ton of competition on social media. On Twitter alone, people share 500 million tweets every day. Why should social media users interact with your posts instead of your competitors?
You need to create content that stands out to give your audience a reason to engage with you. If they like, share, and comment on your posts, it signals to the platform that they value your posts. Most social media algorithms will then ensure that your audience sees your future posts. They’ll even recommend your posts to people with similar interests.
So you first need to figure out what your target audience wants to see. Find out if they prefer videos, images, or text posts. You also need to see if they engage more with specific post types. For example, if you are marketing with Facebook, do your Stories do better than regular posts? Does your audience engage better on pages or groups?
You can unearth even more details such as their favorite colors, patterns, design styles, and if they want to see more humorous posts, inspirational posts, or educational content.
If you already have followers on social media, start mini-surveys through features such as polls on networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram (Stories).
If you want more detailed answers, ask people to leave comments instead of using polls. Then pay attention to those who leave the longest answers as they’re often those most passionate about your brand. They will be the ones most likely to engage with your posts and buy from you.
Another way to analyze your followers’ preferences is through your social media analytics. Most networks have an insights section where you can find a ton of data.
You could also use a third-party tool like Agorapulse to analyze your social media activity. Some of these tools will even identify the most engaged followers.
You can check out profiles of these followers and interview them to understand their interests better.
2. Research the competition
Research your competition qualitatively and quantitatively.
For quantitative research, you can use a social media analytics tool like BuzzSumo again to see which of your competitors’ posts generate the most engagement.
This software will show you what content on their websites gets the most shares. BuzzSumo also has some interesting features that help you find trending content to post.
You can do qualitative analysis manually by looking at the social media pages of each competitor and taking notes on their appearance, what types of visuals (cover images, profile pictures, etc.) they use, and how they interact with followers.
Be sure you take detailed notes as you will need to use them later while setting up your pages and creating content.
3. Choose goals and KPIs
Most people grasp the basic concept of tracking metrics that will confirm the impact of their marketing efforts. But they make the mistake of monitoring wrong metrics like follower growth. More followers might indicate how your account is doing, but it doesn’t confirm whether it positively affects business goals.
To ensure you reach your business’s marketing goals, you should monitor KPIs that affect your bottom line. A couple of straightforward primary ones you can track are:
- Sales: This is the number of people who buy your product after seeing your social media post. You can track it with Google Analytics or another analytics tool. Social networks also offer pixels to track sales from ads.
- Impressions: Another good KPI you might want to consider is impressions. This is the number of people who see your post on the social network. This metric is vital if your goal is to build a brand. You can also compare impressions against sales to see what percentage of impressions lead to a sale.
After you have a primary KPI, you can pick secondary KPIs that influence the primary KPIs. Here are a few good ones you can track:
- Follower growth: When you blindly focus on growing a vanity metric like the number of followers, you may end up attracting the wrong audience. But pair your follower growth goal with a primary goal like sales and you’ll gain followers who will buy from you. This will boost your ROI.
- Engagement: Engagement pairs well with impressions as you will be able to see how many of the people who see your posts find it interesting. If your engagement to impressions rate is high you are doing a good job creating content your audience wants to see.
- Click through rate: This is the number of people who click on the links you share. It’s an essential metric to track if you want to drive more traffic to your website.
After researching your audience and competitors, you will know which social networks to focus on. You can create social media pages on these accounts or modify the ones you already have.
While setting up these pages, use the data from your research. Get your pages to appear as your audience will like them. If you find that your audience enjoyed interacting with a specific competitor, you can get your page to appear like that one or try out some of their tactics.
Keep your audience persona in mind while writing the descriptions/bios for the pages. Think about how you would introduce yourself if you met them in person and write it just like how you would talk to them.
Also, make sure your brand voice and identity are consistent across all your social media pages on different platforms by using the same logo, writing style, and color palette in other visuals like the cover image. Notice how Nordstrom maintains a similar tone and aesthetic across its platforms..
Tell followers on one social media platform about your other pages so that they can follow you. Networks like YouTube allow you to link to your social media pages.
5. Create a content calendar
You need a content calendar to ensure you post consistently. You also need to determine the different post types you will publish. For example, on Instagram, you can publish regular posts, Stories, Reels, and Guides.
On top of that, there are different media such as images, GIFs, and videos. Some networks even let you post text and polls.
You need to post these different content types to engage your audience consistently. Just winging it and posting whatever whenever won’t cut it as there’s too much competition and social media algorithms tend to favor frequent posters.
Clearly laying out on your content calendar which media and post type you will share on specific dates will ensure you stick to a consistent schedule. This can also make it easy to check the effectiveness of your posting strategy.
Creating a calendar can sound complicated, but there are so many social media management tools such as Buffer and Social Web Suite that make it easy.
Some will even inform you about upcoming events and festivities to ensure you prepare content for those days.
6. Create and publish content
Using the data from your research will help you brainstorm creative ideas, but this doesn’t guarantee that a post will be successful.
To ensure that the content ideas will work with your followers, you need to experiment on your account. As you gradually figure out what works, you can post more similar content.
You can either experiment organically over several months or expedite the process with ads. Ads can dramatically increase your reach, which will help you quickly figure out if a piece of content resonates with your audience or doesn’t.
Consistently creating quality content can take a lot of time, especially if you’re adding visual elements—which you should. Visuals tend to drive the highest engagement on social media.
Thankfully, you can cut short the time with a powerful tool like Picmaker.
It has templates and a drag-and-drop builder that makes it easy for anyone to create beautiful visuals from scratch. You might also want to check out our post on Canva alternatives, where we discuss the pros and cons of some of the best graphic design software.
If you use a social media scheduling tool, you can just add your creations to your calendar. Some graphic design tools have posting and scheduling features, so you don’t have to switch tools.
Another way to improve reach and test out your posts simultaneously is by asking accounts with large followings to repost your content. There are several accounts from influencers and businesses that curate posts from other accounts. An example is London Foodguide which posts pictures of dishes from restaurants.
You can reach out to accounts like these with data from your best-performing posts and ask them to repost them. This will help get more exposure to your posts and your accounts (especially if they tag your handle).
To improve your chances, tell them about the engagement the post generated and how many followers it helped you gain. If they feel that their account can reap the same benefits, they will post it as well!
Some of them may ask for money, while others will do it for free or in exchange for your products. If you have the budget, it’s worth investing in some paid influencers as they usually have larger followings. It will also save you time as you’ll need to reach out to fewer accounts.
7. Consider curation
Don’t just ask others to post your content; consider posting content created by other accounts. If you ever see an outstanding image or video and feel that your followers will like it, just post it.
It may help drive engagement. It can also establish a relationship with the post creator who might scratch your back in return. Just make sure you tag the account’s handle in the description and inform them.
Many companies encourage their customers and fans to create user-generated content (UGC) with pictures of their products. They then repost some of this content on their accounts. This triggers social media users to create more content in their quest for social media fame.
For some ideas, check out Waryby Parker’s Instagram page. You will find a ton of content from customers.
Some companies like Pura Vida even display UGC on landing pages to boost social proof.
To make it easy to find UGC, you can simply ask customers to use a branded hashtag when they publish photos of your products. Monitor these hashtags and find potential photos to post. You can also use social listening tools to monitor keywords like your brand and product names on social media. These can help you find UGC, too, as everyone won’t use the hashtag.
8. Audit and modify your strategy
Even with extensive pre-research, it is tough to get your social media strategy right the first time. Also, online marketing trends are constantly changing, and what worked a few months ago might not work now. Another thing to consider is social network algorithms. Platforms are constantly modifying their algorithms, user interfaces, and introducing new features.
This is why you need to audit your accounts, create social reports, and modify your strategy every three months, ideally—six months at least. Use a good analytics tool like Maybe* to see which posts generated the most engagement and the effect this had on sales or brand impressions (depending on your goal). Maybe* will not just detail your organic performance, but also your ad performance. You can also analyze your competitors’ accounts to see how they fared.
You can pair data from your analytics with recent reports from social networks and other organizations to develop a new strategy.
It’s best to track your data in real-time and check up on your social media platforms every few days or weeks. So, if things look bad you can make modifications immediately. You don’t have to leave tracking until your detailed audit every few months.
Now create your social media strategy
Social media is a powerful marketing medium. If used properly, almost any business can find success with it. But this is easier said than done as right now there are so many social networks to market your business. Also, on each network, you need to publish different types of posts consistently. Things can get confusing.
One way to eliminate confusion is to create a strategy that helps your entire marketing team understand what you’re doing.
Invest a few weeks or at least a few days in doing a ton of research and creating a social media strategy that will help you accomplish your business goals. Use a content calendar to stay on track. Then monitor this strategy with regular audits and improve it.
Yes, it is a lot of work, but you can save plenty of time with good social media marketing software. You can find some of the best tools for a fraction of the cost in the AppSumo deals store. Check it out!